Published: 16 July 2014
Video: Simon Powers
British Cycling is delighted to have supported the opening of ‘Beryl’, a play celebrating the life of legendary cyclist Beryl Burton.
The opening night of the show at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, was celebrated with a ‘Women in Sport’ panel debate and the unveiling of a British Cycling photography exhibition highlighting the achievements of inspirational riders such as Victoria Pendleton, Laura Trott, Shanaze Reade and Nicole Cooke.
The panel event brought together leading figures from the worlds of sport, media and academia to discuss the status of women’s sport and its development since the days when Beryl dominated.
Present on the panel was Olympic silver medallist Emma Pooley, who recently won three stages of the Giro Rosa, taking the Green jersey for the mountains classification.
She was joined by Beryl’s daughter Denise Burton-Cole, herself a world championship bronze medallist, Shelley Alexander who serves as editorial lead for Women in Sport at the BBC, Dr Carol Osborne a senior lecturer on sport at Leeds Metropolitan University and British Cycling Women’s Network Project Manager, Natalie Justice.
Together, they discussed the question “How much has been achieved since Beryl Burton and what still needs to be achieved for women in sport” in front of a live audience who contributed to the debate with questions and input. It was a lively and engaging debate, which framed perfectly the challenges Beryl faced as she overcame the odds to become world champion on seven occasions and win over 90 national titles.
Emma Pooley paid tribute to these remarkable achievements just before the curtain was raised: “Beryl Burton was unquestionably an incredible athlete. It doesn’t matter whether she was male or female, she was incredibly talented and achieved great things. Stories like hers can inspire people to take up cycling.”
The play comes as British Cycling is working harder than ever to inspire women to ride bikes. In 2013 the governing body launched a strategy to get one million more women riding bikes by 2020.
A big part of achieving this goal will be through British Cycling’s Breeze Network. An army of volunteer Breeze Champions are on hand with a dedicated programme creating hundreds of opportunities for women to get on their bikes.
British Cycling’s Natalie Justice discussed some of Breeze’s future initiatives at the opening of the play.
“This year we’re doing our first round of challenge events. We’ve got two challenge rides set for October in Lancashire and Warwickshire. That for us is a real step forward and it really goes to show how far Breeze has come over the last few years.”
British Cycling also spoke to Beryl’s daughter Denise and Breeze champion Judy Robinson about the inspiration played by role models like Beryl and the importance of the work done by Breeze and British Cycling.